These days, it wouldn’t be a presidential appearance without some gratuitous Christian-bashing. And at yesterday’s roundtable on poverty, President Obama didn’t disappoint. During the panel discussion at Georgetown University, President Obama took the common goal of helping the poor and used it to drive an even deeper wedge between his administration and people of faith.
In between swipes at Fox News, the President scolded the church for being too preoccupied with the culture war to help the needy. “I think it would be powerful for our faith-based organizations to speak out on this in a more forceful fashion. This may sound self-interested because there have been — these are areas where I agree with the evangelical community and faith-based groups, and then there are issues where we have had disagreements around reproductive issues, or same-sex marriage, or what have you. And so maybe it appears advantageous for me to want to focus on these issues of poverty, and not as much on these other issues.”
If only, he sighs, the church weren’t so obsessed with social issues. “There is great caring and great concern, but when it comes to what are you really going to the mat for, what’s the defining issue, when you’re talking in your congregations, what’s the thing that is really going to capture the essence of who we are as Christians, or as Catholics, or what have you, that this is oftentimes viewed as a ‘nice to have’ relative to an issue like abortion.”
Anyone involved in faith-based ministry must have needed a strap to pick their jaws up off the floor. This President is accusing the church — the most effective social outreach program in the history of America — of ignoring the poor to fight a war on social issues that, oh by the way, he started? That’s not only ignorant of the church’s activities — it’s insulting. The religious community hasn’t ignored the poor. On the contrary, there’s no more generous segment of society than Christian conservatives and the ministries that their giving makes possible.
In North American disaster relief alone (not counting hunger and clothing outreach, medical and elder care, treatment programs, prison assistance, and more), the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) spent more than $6,120,000 in 2014 — making it the third largest provider behind the Red Cross and Salvation Army. (And that figure doesn’t include the more than 25,000 volunteer days, worth about $2.5 million!) That’s a tiny sliver of the dozens of SBC’s ministries, and it still dwarfs the $3,187,000 it spends on those “other issues” President Obama mentioned. Not to mention that the SBC is just one of the more than 600 evangelical ministries in America!
“How many Americans, of every faith and every economic status, have received world-class health care in Catholic hospitals?” FRC’s Dr. Pat Fagan and Rob Schwarzwalder ask. “In total, the Economist estimates that of the Catholic Church’s $170 billion total income, about 57%, or roughly $97 billion, goes to ‘health-care networks, followed by 28% on colleges, with parish and diocesan day-to-day operations accounting for just 6%, with the remaining $4.6 billion going to national charitable activities.'”
The irony is that if the President would actually leave these ministries alone to do that work, they’d be even more powerful agents of change. Instead, he attacks their motives, demands their surrender on core values, and punishes them when they refuse. The Obama administration is tying the church’s arms behind its back and then complaining that it doesn’t serve enough soup!
If the President cares more about poverty than his social agenda, why did he sacrifice a program for thousands of sex trafficking victims on the altar of his radical abortion policy? Or make allegiance to same-sex “marriage” a condition of nonprofits’ tax exemption? In the hostile environment created by this administration, Christians are spending precious time defending their faith, when they could be putting it in practice.
Frankly, we’d love to focus on strengthening families and ending poverty — but the President won’t lay down his weapons of sexual radicalism long enough for us to try. So if you’re wondering who’s obsessed with these issues, try 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. The church didn’t start this debate. We didn’t introduce transgender bathrooms into elementary schools or force the redefinition of marriage on America. We didn’t decide that killing was “choice.” We’re just responding to the assault on our values. When the President decides to put aside those “other issues,” so will we.